The students in Mihoko Toda’s cooking class gasped when the cuttlefish they had been cleaning twitched. It surprised the eight women in attendance, but it was all in a day’s work for the unflappable instructor.

Toda, 41, offered the lesson at a venue near JR Akashi Station in Akashi, Hyogo Prefecture.

In front of the class was a type of squid called “hari-ika” or “ko-ika.” Its mantle measures 15 to 20 cm, and large quantities are caught in the spring and fall in Akashi. The thick transparent meat is best enjoyed as sashimi. Seasoning it with salt highlights its sweet taste.

Toda’s husband, Yuhei, 40, is a fourth-generation fisherman of Akashi, and so Toda gets to use freshly caught fish in her cooking class.

Yuhei also works as a wholesaler. At the Akashiura Fishery Cooperative, the auction starts at 11:30 a.m., and during the summer, at 11 a.m. The fresh seafood make it to the fish shops and other places as “hiruami,” fresh fish that reach consumers by lunchtime.

Yuhei busily carries flounder, “hamo” (dagger-tooth pike conger), and octopus to a string of restaurants. Sea bream that jump and splash are shipped carefully after applying the “shinkei-jime,” a way to keep the fish fresh by working on its nerves. The couple also opened a sushi restaurant two years ago.

They share the aim of increasing the number of fish-lovers, and Toda offers the cooking class hoping to familiarize people with preparing fish.

People from Osaka and even as far as Shikoku attend her classes. They often tell her that there are not many classes that specialize in how to clean fish.

Her students vary in age.

“I feel that there are more people than I thought who like fish but aren’t sure how to eat them,” says Toda.

So she tries to introduce recipes that are as simple as possible. For instance, squid arms sauteed in butter and just seasoned with its liver.

“The liver is a natural seasoning. You don’t need any other flavoring,” says Toda. The characteristic sweet and bitter flavor and aroma spread in the mouth.

“I want people to know that they can save on waste and enjoy parts that they usually throw away,” said Toda.

INGREDIENTS

(Serves two)

1 hari-ika

1 bunch komatsuna leaves

10 grams carrot

1 Tbsp sake

10 grams butter

METHOD

Remove arms and gut from mantle of cuttlefish. Separate brownish liver. Enjoy mantle as sashimi or in other dishes.

Slice thin skin of liver, remove mixture and mix with sake.

Sprinkle about 1 Tbsp salt on arms, rub in until dirt is removed. Rinse thoroughly and cut into bite-sized pieces.

Cut komatsuna into 5-cm-long pieces. Cut carrot into fine 5-cm strips.

Heat frying pan and melt butter. Cook cuttlefish arms, stem of komatsuna and carrot over medium heat.

Once the arms turn bright reddish, add komatsuna leaves.

Add liver mixture, mix briefly so it coats arms and switch off heat.

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From The Asahi Shimbun’s Watashi no Ryori column